Michigan growers say disaster unfolding as erratic spring weather zaps cherries, other fruits

  • JOHN FLESHER  Associated Press

TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — A disaster is unfolding in Michigan orchards as erratic spring weather causes some of the biggest losses in decades of cherries, apples and other fruits, growers said Thursday.

A rare extended period of summerlike temperatures in March caused trees to blossom early, only to be zapped by an unrelenting series of April frosts and freezes. The one-two punch killed many buds, while recent cold snaps and rainstorms have discouraged honeybees from pollinating those that survived.

Farmers and agricultural extension agents said the tart cherry crop is all but wiped out in most places, while sweet cherries, apples, pears and other fruits are heavily damaged. Juice grapes are another casualty. Many growers probably won’t bother harvesting their meager yields, focusing instead on keeping trees healthy for next year, said Ken Nye, commodity specialist for the Michigan Farm Bureau.

“This is the worst that Michigan has experienced in the past 50 years at least,” Nye said. “I don’t know how far you’d have to go back to find something similar.”

Michigan produces three-fourths of the nation’s tart cherries, used primarily in pies and other food products, and 20 percent of its sweet cherries, a popular table fruit. It ranks third nationally in apple production, behind Washington and New York.

The state is no stranger to spring cold snaps, and experts say orchards remain vulnerable throughout May. The tart cherry crop was a near-total loss a decade ago. What sets this year apart is not just the severity of the damage but the variety of fruits affected.

“We’ve had freezes before, but you’d always have something come through OK,” said David Rabe, who grows apples, tart cherries, peaches and asparagus in Oceana County. “This year, just about everything’s devastated. Asparagus might be the only crop we can harvest.”

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Cyber Space

New York judge rules an IP address is not a person

Published on May 4, 2012 by

A judge in New York has ruled that Internet searches and downloads and other activities done on your personal computer do not mean you are the person behind them. This ruling could cause a problem when it comes to CISPA. In this case, an individual allegedly downloaded an adult film illegally and the judge’s ruling has made many Internet freedom advocates happy. Mitch Stoltz, a staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, joins us with more.

Android Malware Used to Mask Online Fraud, Says Expert

By Gregg Keizer, Computerworld

Android Malware Used to Mask Online Fraud, Says ExpertAndroid malware being automatically distributed from hacked websites looks like it’s being used to mask online purchases, and could be part of a fraud gang’s new push into mobile, researchers said today.

“The malware essentially turns your Android phone into a tunnel that can bounce network traffic off your phone,” said Kevin Mahaffrey, co-founder and CTO of Lookout Security, a San Francisco-based firm that focuses on Android.

Lookout first published information about the new malware, dubbed “NotCompatible,” on Wednesday. Further analysis, however, has revealed the most likely reason why cyber criminals are spreading the malware.

“There are a couple of ways they can profit from this,” said Mahaffrey in an interview. “One is general online fraud, the other is targeted attacks against enterprises. We haven’t seen any evidence [of the latter], and have confirmed that it is engaged in online purchasing activity.”

Once installed, NotCompatible turns an infected Android device into a proxy, through which hackers can then direct data packets, in essence disguising the real source of that traffic by using the compromised devices as middlemen.

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FBI Wants Backdoors in Facebook, Twitter, Skype & Instant Messaging

Eddie Sage | 05 May 2012


CNET learns the FBI is quietly pushing its plan to force surveillance backdoors on social networks, VoIP, and Web e-mail providers, and that the bureau is asking Internet companies not to oppose a law making those back doors mandatory.

The FBI have drafted a proposed law which would extend the abilities of the 1994 CALEA act which established their ability to tap phones across the USA. This law would work with communications companies across the states to establish a threshold for number of users which, once met, would require said communications company to activate surveillance-friendly functions on their network for use by the FBI.

Currently the Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act covers telecommunications providers and allows the FBI to tap your phone if they have good cause. That’s all you need to know – it’s a law, it exists, and it’s very real. This most current legislation asks that the government add communications providers beyond what they’ve got covered now – chatting on your computer in any way at all may soon be covered, for example.
The FBI is getting impatient and wants a backdoor to Facebook, Skype, Google Hangouts and other services now to catch evildoers.


Survival / Sustainability

Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers

Make these easy liquid fertilizers — then sit back and watch your seedlings and plants thrive!

By Barbara Pleasant
Liquid Fertilizers
Homemade liquid fertilizers made from free, natural ingredients — such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure and human urine — can give your plants the quick boost of nutrients they need to grow stronger and be more productive.

Many organic gardeners keep a bottle of liquid fish fertilizer on hand to feed young seedlings, plants growing in containers and any garden crop that needs a nutrient boost. But liquid, fish-based fertilizers are often pricey, plus we’re supporting an unsustainable fishing industry by buying them. So, what’s a good alternative?

MOTHER EARTH NEWS commissioned Will Brinton — who holds a doctorate in Environmental Science and is president of Woods End Laboratories in Mt. Vernon, Maine — to develop some water-based, homemade fertilizer recipes using free, natural ingredients, such as grass clippings, seaweed, chicken manure and human urine. His results are summarized on our chart of Homemade Fertilizer Tea Recipes.

Why and When to Use Liquids

Liquid fertilizers are faster-acting than seed meals and other solid organic products, so liquids are your best choice for several purposes. As soon as seedlings have used up the nutrients provided by the sprouted seeds, they benefit from small amounts of fertilizer. This is especially true if you’re using a soil-less seed starting mix (such as a peat-based mix), which helps prevent damping-off but provides a scant supply of nutrients. Seedlings don’t need much in the way of nutrients, but if they noticeably darken in color after you feed them with a liquid fertilizer, that’s evidence they had a need that has been satisfied. Liquid fertilizers are also essential to success with container-grown plants, which depend entirely on their growers for moisture and nutrients. Container-grown plants do best with frequent light feedings of liquid fertilizers, which are immediately distributed throughout the constricted growing area of the containers.

Out in the garden, liquid fertilizers can be invaluable if you’re growing cold-tolerant crops that start growing when soil temperatures are low for example, overwintered spinach or strawberries coaxed into early growth beneath row covers. Nitrogen held in the soil is difficult for plants to take up until soil temperatures rise above 50 degrees Fahrenheit or so, meaning plants can experience a slow start because of a temporary nutrient deficit in late winter and early spring. The more you push the spring season by using cloches and row covers to grow early crops of lettuce, broccoli or cabbage in cold soil, the more it will be worth your time to use liquid fertilizers to provide a boost until the soil warms up.

Homemade Fertilizer Tea Recipes

Make these easy liquid fertilizers — then sit back and watch your seedlings and plants thrive!

By Barbara Pleasant

Add the amount of dry ingredients shown in the chart below to a 5-gallon bucket, then add water to fill, and steep for three days. Strain or decant the tea and dilute as shown below. To make fertilizer tea from urine, simply dilute the urine in 20 parts water, and it’s ready to use. Water plants with these solutions no more than once every two weeks.

Check out Free, Homemade Liquid Fertilizers for more information about liquid fertilizers and the many benefits of making your own.

Type Amount Dilute
Dried chicken manure with wood shavings 1/5 bucket 1:1
Seaweed 1/5 bucket none
Fresh grass clippings 2/3 bucket 1:1
Urine 1:20

Best Chicken Breeds for Backyard Flocks

Our latest survey results can help you choose the best chickens for eggs, meat, temperament and more.

By Troy Griepentrog
Hens on pasture
With so many chicken breeds (plus hybrids and crossbred chickens), you’re sure to find the kind of chickens that are just right for your needs.

Chickens are the perfect starter livestock for your homestead — whether you have a small backyard in an urban area or 20 acres in the boondocks. Chickens provide eggs, meat and fertilizer, plus they’re small and easy to manage. Several chicken breed charts are available online and in books, but their information is often based on old data. So, to get current information on the best chicken breeds, we developed a survey of our readers who have lots of experience with various breeds. (Many thanks to more than 1,000 readers who participated in the survey.) The summaries below include only results from people who have more than three years’ experience raising chickens. And we only included breeds or hybrids if at least three people responded to questions about them.

Our survey didn’t ask which chicken breeds are prettiest. That’s important, too, but it’s subjective. If you’d like to see what each breed looks like, check out Feathersite.com or get a copy of Storey’s Illustrated Guide to Poultry Breeds by Carol Ekarius. It’s an excellent book with outstanding photos.

Pick Your Chicks

Before you decide which chicken breeds to raise, you’ll want to decide which attributes are most important to you: egg production, meat production, temperament or other qualities. If you try a breed for a year or two and decide it isn’t quite what you were  looking for, try another — or try two or three breeds each year to find out which one best suits your needs.

After you’ve selected a breed, use our Hatchery Finder to find mail-order sources near you, or our Directory of Hatcheries and Poultry Breeders to find a chicken hatchery or poultry breeders. Then, ask a few questions before you place your order. Breeders and hatcheries select for different traits. For example, some breeders may select Orpingtons for egg production; others, to meet a certain “type” described in a standard for shows. All birds of a certain breed won’t have identical characteristics. Some people who took our survey said Javas lay dark brown eggs; others said Javas lay tinted eggs. That doesn’t necessarily mean someone is wrong — certain flocks may have been bred to produce darker eggs than others.



MK Occupy Minnesota: Drugs & the DRE Program at Peavey Plaza

Published on May 2, 2012 by HongPong

Video documentation by local activists and independent media shows that police officers and county deputies from across Minnesota have been picking up young people near Peavey Plaza for a training program to recognize drug-impaired drivers. Multiple participants say officers gave them illicit drugs and provided other incentives to take the drugs. The Occupy movement, present at Peavey Plaza since April 7th, appears to be targeted as impaired people are dropped off at the Plaza, and others say they’ve been rewarded for offering to snitch on the movement.
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Local independent media activists and members of Communities United Against Police Brutality began investigating police conduct around the Plaza after witnessing police dropping off impaired people at the plaza and hearing rumors that they were offering people drugs. We videotaped police conduct and interviewed participants, learning some very disturbing information about the DRE program.

Officers stated on record the DRE program, run by the Minnesota State Patrol, has no Institutional Review Board or independent oversight. They agreed no ambulances or EMTs were on site at the Richfield MnDOT facility near the airport where most subjects were taken. Multiple times, participants left Peavey Plaza sober, returned intoxicated, and said they’d been given free drugs by law enforcement. We documented on more than one occasion, someone being told they were sober by one officer, and then picked up by a different officer, and returning intoxicated.

Given the dangers of impaired driving, there is value in training law enforcement officers to distinguish between the effects of various drugs and several common medical conditions. However, we have captured video footage of instances in which DRE trainees recruited subjects who are not already impaired, and those participants say they were given drugs by the officers.

Although program documents indicate that participants must sign a waiver, https://dps.mn.gov/divisions/msp/forms-reports/Documents/SFSTSponsorResponsib… there was no indication from any of the participants interviewed that a waiver was offered or obtained. Further, video footage seems to validate the recollections of participants that no medical personnel or ambulance were on site during the observation and testing in Richfield. A DRE officer told one of our investigators that no Institutional Review Board assessment of the program has been made, a requirement of all experiments involving human subjects. Since it’s unethical to encourage people to take drugs–whether by giving them drugs directly or enticing them with food, cigarettes, or other rewards (which participants say they were given)–it is unlikely such a program would pass IRB review as it endangers the test subjects.

According to the WCCO article from May 2011, officer trainees in the past have worked with various non-profit organizations to recruit drug users. It would appear now that they are no longer relying solely on this tactic, instead recruiting users directly and, participants say, providing them with drugs. After the sessions, these individuals are then dropped off in public areas without supportive care, creating a public safety hazard. In an example at Peavey Plaza caught on film, an individual who said he’s been smoking courtesy of the police for an hour, crossed a line of Minneapolis police barricades, climbed to the top of a large sign and sat 15 feet above the sidewalk swinging his arms and legs in front of a police camera.

Our investigation points to particular efforts to target and recruit youth. Further, law enforcement officers have been taped recruiting people from the Peavey Plaza area of Nicollet Mall and have dropped off a number of impaired individuals at Peavey Plaza. In some instances, Minneapolis police squad cars were present while DRE trainees recruited people at Peavey Plaza. After receiving drugs, some subjects were asked to snitch on the Occupy movement or asked about various people and activities of Occupy, they said. Given efforts by the Minneapolis city council to pass an ordinance designed to restrict access to Peavey Plaza by the Occupy movement, the conduct of DRE trainees points to the possibility that they are working hand-in-glove with Minneapolis police to discredit and disrupt the Occupy movement.

“I think most people would be very surprised to have our tax dollars used to get people high,” states Michelle Gross, president of Communities United Against Police Brutality. “These activities call into question the methods and motives of this DRE training.”


Occupy clashes mark May Day in Seattle, Oakland

License photo

NEW YORK, May 1 (UPI) — May Day protests in Seattle’s retail area turned violent Tuesday when an estimated 50 demonstrators broke windows and clashed with police, authorities said.

The demonstrators, wearing black and wielding poles, dispersed when police in riot gear confronted them, The Seattle Times reported.

Mayor Mike McGinn said at a news conference those demonstrators got rid of their black clothing and rejoined the crowd. He said he had issued an order banning items at the demonstrations that would be used as weapons, the newspaper said.Some Occupy protesters in Oakland came under tear gas attack Tuesday by police who arrested nine demonstrators, authorities said.

The Oakland rally was one of many that took place across the United States.

The nine taken into custody on suspicion of interfering with officers, failing to disperse and related counts were among more than 400 people who showed up at Oakland’s Frank Ogawa Plaza near City Hall, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Police said they used “small amounts of gas” three times against “small groups of people who were committing violent acts,” the newspaper said. Police said yellow paint was thrown at one officer, who was hit by a metal paint can and kicked in the ribs, the newspaper reported.

A television news van and a police van were vandalized, and there were other minor acts of vandalism and graffiti, authorities said.

Mostly, though, the rally was peaceful, the Times said. Among the protesters was Shaina Burnette, 31, who brought her 2-year-old son in a stroller decked with signs that read “Dear Corporate State, Can you please spare some clean air, water and food for my generation? Maybe a couple schools? Animal species? Trees? PLEASE…”

In Chicago, dozens of demonstrators blocked the entrance to a downtown Bank of America branch, police said.

More than two dozen city police officers were at the scene of the sit-in but no arrests had been made, WBBM-TV, Chicago, reported. About 15 of the protesters were ejected from the branch when they tried to go inside to open accounts, the TV station said.

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Occupy movement strikes a chord in Seattle

Beyond the few on the streets, many in the middle are taking up the cause.

By Tyrone Beason


Karrsen Brannon-Young participates in the Seattle-area Occupy movement almost full-time. He is photographed on Beacon Hill in front of graffiti (left by another person) that reflects the movement's intended inclusiveness.

Enlarge this photoJOHN LOK / THE SEATTLE TIMES

Karrsen Brannon-Young participates in the Seattle-area Occupy movement almost full-time. He is photographed on Beacon Hill in front of graffiti (left by another person) that reflects the movement’s intended inclusiveness.

THERE’S A SMALL sign in the living-room window of Barbara Strindberg and Linnea Skoglund’s home in Seattle’s Ballard neighborhood that tells everyone driving or walking by, “We are the 99 Percent.”

It’s a show of support for the Occupy movement that started with protests on Wall Street last year and branched out to cities across the country, including Seattle.

Strindberg and Skoglund, both 60, are the picture of working-class Seattle. Strindberg worked at an electrical-sign company as a graphic designer up until last year.

Skoglund is a retired drawbridge operator who worked for years on the span connecting the Roanoke neighborhood to the University District.

From the outside, they appear to live a comfortable life.

But once you walk through Strindberg and Skoglund’s front door and probe the reasons they’ve joined the Occupy movement in spirit, the full complexity of that “99 percent” idea comes into high relief.

Skoglund, who boasts of being one of the first female longshoremen in Seattle, has multiple sclerosis, and she increasingly requires help performing some tasks and moving around the house she and her partner purchased in 1984, shortly after they began their relationship.

Strindberg left her job a year ago, not to retire and rest easy but to care for Skoglund full time.

The couple lives primarily on Skoglund’s pension, Strindberg’s IRA and regular savings. Skoglund has a generous insurance plan, but it doesn’t cover some equipment she needs. They may have to pay for a wheelchair to go with a special lift they’ve spent their own money to install in the house — an expense that could total thousands of dollars they really can’t afford to spend.

“We were living quite nicely with both of us working,” Strindberg says. Now she’s worried about how long the savings will last, considering the monthly mortgage and insurance premiums of about $400 each per month. “I’m not sure how much longer we can do it.”

Skoglund says her mother, a Swedish immigrant who came through Ellis Island in the 1920s, taught her that “to be self-sustaining is best.”

Lately, though, it’s hard for her and her partner to live by that principle.

Given the kitchen-table concerns of Americans like them, Strindberg and Skoglund say they can’t believe politicians speak of cutting social programs and tax breaks for the middle class while preserving perks for the wealthy and well-connected.

It’s not just that regular folks and the powerful aren’t playing on an even field — it appears to this couple, at least, that those at the top are playing an entirely different game that enriches only themselves.

“More people are fed up than are not fed up” with the nation’s politicians in particular, Strindberg says. “They’re not governing — they’re arguing and fighting.”

Harvard law professor and ethicist Lawrence Lessig put it another way in a recent television appearance: “The most interesting political divide in America right now is between the inside and the outside. The inside is from Mars and the outside is from Earth.”

In his book “One Way Forward: The Outsider’s Guide to Fixing the Republic” he says “movements today are movements without leaders. They are movements of ideas mixed with passion.” This observation perfectly captures the Occupy campaign.

Organizers of the Occupy movement, many of whom are disillusioned with electoral politics, are not like their equally frustrated counterparts in the Tea Party, which had a significant impact in some 2010 congressional races. In fact, Occupy is not set up to morph into an actual party with clear leaders and a platform.

Its members are less interested in running candidates than in amplifying the public’s murmuring unease about the state of politics and the economy.

Signs of the “passion” Lessig talks about are visible everywhere: from the placard someone recently hung above Interstate 5 on Capitol Hill proclaiming “Corporations are not People,” to the cutout of a closed fist hung on a fence along Yesler Way in the Central District that beckons drivers to “Rise,” to the letter board on an industrial building across the street from yacht marinas on Lake Union that screams, “Wake up America . . . Everyone benefits when everyone benefits,” to the more personal message in Strindberg and Skoglund’s living-room window.

Who is the 99 percent? Consider these two answers:

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Articles of Interest

Penn State Cooks Up Ouchless Bandages Made of Edible Starch

By Kevin Lee, PCWorld

Kitty!!The general rule for pulling off a bandage is to rip it right off in one instant. But what if it the adhesive melted all over the place or it was applied it to an extremely hairy leg? Ouchies always seem to ensue.

Penn State food researchers Lingyan Kong and Greg Ziegler want to get past the whole sticky ordeal of plastic-based bandages and make ones out of starch. A starch-based bandage could simply melt over time into nutritious glucose that’s absorbed though your skin.

Of course, this is not your basic supermarket potato starch or cornstarch. The scientists are developing their bandages from tiny, finely spun strings of a starch polymer made of amylose and amylopectin.

The starch polymer is first dissolved in a water-and-solvent solution–if the starch was broken down using water alone, it would have turned into a gel. The solution also helps the starch retains its repeating molecular structure.

From there, an electrospinning device spins the solution until it forms long, thread-like strands. The fibers can be woven into a number of things including bandages, paper, toilet paper, napkins, and other biodegradable materials.

Since starch is made up of organic compounds, it is readily biodegradable. The scientists say that starch polymers could be an abundant and eco-friendly replacement for products that typically use cellulose or petroleum-based polymers.

[Penn State via Phys Org / Photo: Normanack on Flickr (CC BY 2.0)]

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